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Australia warned, 'embrace change or decline like Sparta'

04 Mar 2014

Pamela Young Australia risks the same fate as ancient Sparta unless it embraces cultural diversity and gender equality, according to Pamela Young, a strategic change consultant and the author of Stepping Up: Lead Culture Change for diversity and growth in the Asian Century.

Young drew the link between Australia and the Greek city state which collapsed nearly 2,500 years ago, during a Leadership Re-imagined event hosted by Postgraduate Management Education at the University of Sydney Business School.

Australians, she said, need to move out of their comfort zone, work hard and gain an understanding of Asian cultures or risk becoming another Sparta, "which used to be a major hub in Ancient Greece but is now no more than ruins".

Young describes Stepping Up as a conversation about cultural diversity and gender equality based on interviews with a hundred corporate leaders.

"If we were to do these two things better, we would do better at operating across the Asian region," she said. "It would help us with our growth internally and improve our competitiveness in the global space."

Young went on to say that Australia's business leaders have less cross cultural experience than leaders in other parts of the world, largely because of our geography and our "island culture".

"We are self contained, we are independent, we are capable and we are successful. We have had a wonderful 150 years of growth," she said.

However, Young warned that "what made us strong in the past could make us weak in the future".

"We need to build some cross cultural capabilities including language capabilities. We need to look outside our island and we need to grow some strengths to operate in Asia just to our north."

Young said that management education courses such as the University of Sydney Business School's Master of Business Administraion (MBA) and Global Executive MBA programs played a "very important" part in building Australia's capacity to prosper in the Asian Century.